Another Day, another Gin Review! Honest, I don’t plan my holidays around Gin Distilleries, it just kind of happens! You may have read my review of Kirkjugavr Gin and Sea Glass Gin. Today it is the turn of Dunnet Bay Distillers and Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka.
Dunnet Bay Distillers is run by a husband and wife team, Martin and Claire. They distilled the first batch of Rock Rose Gin in 2014. Martin has a background in oil and gas before he and Claire decided to take their passion to the next level and build their own distillery. The Distillery is a family affair with everyone pitching in and helping where they can. The remoteness of the Distillery (it’s just along the road from John O’ Groats) means that the distillery uses as much local produce as possible. Lucky they are in such an unspoiled part of the country that is a pantry of botanicals. Read more about their Story here.
Rock Rose Gin has won so many awards since it was first produced and when you first taste, it is easy to see why. Rock Rose Gin is so distinctive tasting and memorable that it is easy to see why so many people I know say they don’t like gin but they like Rock Rose. The main botanicals in the gin are Juniper (of course!) and RHODIOLA ROSEA (Rock Rose) alongside Sea Buckthorn, Rowan Berries and others such as Blaeberries, cardamom, Coriander seeds, and verbena.
Alongside the Original Gin, the distillers have also created different Gins to complement the different seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Each uses different botanicals that suit the season and they all have distinctive tastes. For example, the Winter one has Spruce Tips in it. Can you get any more festive than an actual Christmas Tree!
Alongside this is the Navy Strength Gin. Like most other distilleries Rock Rose offer a Navy Strength Gin which is the Original Gin but bottled at a higher strength ABV. Don’t be put off by the higher strength often it is a much smoother drink and is nice straight or on the rocks. I loved the Navy Strength Rock Rose but I think I would like anything they made!
Holy Grass Vodka is another venture of the Dunnet Bay Distillers. The main ingredient is Holy Grass which is a plant that was thought to be extinct but was found on the banks of Thurso. The story of how it was found is fascinating, but I don’t want to ruin the tour story. I said it before, I didn’t think Vodka was my thing but this was delicious. It was quite sweet and smooth, very enjoyable!
The tour begins in a big barn style room off of the shop. It is a beautiful room and you are offered a Rock Rose and Tonic to enjoy whilst the guide talks you through the story of Rock Rose. Our Tour Guide, Joanne was really knowledgeable about local history and the surroundings. We were then taken on a tour of the distillery itself and talked through the process including the distilling, bottling and hand waxing of the bottles. You would be surprised at how tiny Gin Distilleries actually are! Especially compared to Whisky Distilleries.
After the tour, we were taken back to the first room and given a tutored tasting. We had a try of the summer, winter and the vodka. Joanne talked us through the tastes, smells and recommended servings. I liked how we were given a pen and paper to write down tasting notes. At the end of the tour, we were also given a wee goody bag with a gin miniature and tonic to take away which was a nice touch!
If you are passing and don’t have time for a tour, I definitely recommend dropping into the shop to pick up a bottle, one of the beautifully etched glasses or even the special limited edition distillers gins that are not available elsewhere.
I also highly recommend going into the Northern Sands which is next door. The staff are friendly, they have Rock Rose and the food is good. We spent two days in here, quite literally. The world cup was on and we camped in front of the TVs for hours. There is a campsite about 5 minutes walk away too so handy to stop here overnight so you don’t need a DES driver.
Try a Rock Rose Gin next time you see it in a bar or buy a bottle online. If you are heading up that way definitely drop into Rock Rose. You won’t be disappointed!